by Sherry Lipp
Early on in Jurassic World someone says people are bored with the same old dinosaurs. They need something bigger and scarier. Consumers in the modern world, where technology provides instant gratification, are always in need of something new to hold their attention. This bit of meta-poignancy holds true for Jurassic World, the part sequel/part reboot of the 1993 mega-hit Jurassic Park. The problem is, this film tries to to do so much it ends up being all spectacle and no substance.
This film is not entirely a reboot because there are plenty of references to the original. Names are dropped and past events are mentioned just often enough to remind us just how wrong things went in that film. There’s even a brief visit to the original visitor center that’s likely to give you a nostalgic pang – and make you long for the relative simplicity of the original. Don’t get me wrong, Jurassic Park was spectacular in everything it did, but director Steven Spielberg knew the value of “less is more.”
That is certainly not the attitude in director Colin Trevorrow’s new film. The bigger and scarier tourist attraction in Jurassic World is the genetically-modified dino Indominus Rex. I had high hopes at first because the Indominus Rex incorporated some of the best things about Michael Crichton’s Lost World novel that Spielberg wasn’t able to do with the F/X tech of ’93. But my hopes were dashed when they didn’t do a whole lot with what actually makes this “new” dinosaur scary. I won’t go into detail, because it would spoil the surprise of one of the best scenes in the film. I will say that an early encounter with the Indominus Rex is one of the only truly tension-filled scenes in the film.
Another problem with Jurassic World is that it’s filled with unimaginative cliché and several borrowed elements from the three previous Jurassic Park films. There are two kids who are stranded in the far reaches of the park. A nefarious InGen mucky muck (Vincent D’Onofrio) has ulterior motives, the only person who knows what he’s doing (Chris Pratt) doesn’t get any respect, and the park manger (Bryce Dallas Howard) – who is also the aunt of the two kids – is too preoccupied with her job to appreciate the value of her family or the animals in the park.
I could’ve lived with all that if the film presented a solid story and excitingly-staged action scenes. It’s really not asking a lot, but this film presents several muddled ideas that never are allowed to go anywhere. Perhaps my biggest problem with this film is the startling brutality. Who do they think we’re rooting for? I know these dinosaurs are dangerous creatures, but they are not monsters. The Indominus Rex is inexplicably presented as the “bad guy” here. I was expecting her to be a misunderstood being, misplaced in the world like King Kong, but apparently we are supposed to be rooting for her demise. I didn’t like it, especially with the constant re-enforcement that the dinosaurs are intelligent. The humans are, for the most part, hissable predators. Yet there’s a surprising amount of anti-dinosaur brutality in this film. I thought was a little overboard for what is supposed to be a fun thrill-ride.
What I did like was anything involving the raptors. I thought the scenes of animal trainer Owen (Pratt) training and bonding with them were well done. There was some real emotion there and the reminder that these are wild animal always lingered in the background. It added a touch of realism to what is otherwise a fantastical story.
I wish I had better things to say about Jurassic World. I really wanted to have more fun watching this interpretation of Michael Crichton’s vision. Even knowing there would be no way to recreate the total surprise and wonder the original film provided, I had hoped (and expected) this would be better. It has its scattered moments, but mostly I regard it as a disappointment and a squandered opportunity.
Jurassic World images: Universal